Editor’s Note: This is a new feature I’m starting in which I give judgments on games that I’ve played for only a couple of hours. While this idea may seem similar to first impressions or previews, it’s definitely not. Why? Because I said so.
Anyway, a game is meant to grab the player within the first couple of hours of play and keep them hooked until its conclusion, right? So, I’m here with little anecdotes and impressions of my first few hours of play to tell you, my faithful readers, whether or not a game has done so. Now for the disclaimer: these are not reviews and are not meant to be taken as such. They are merely my opinions on the first couple hours of play and nothing more. Now, enough of the explanations. Let’s get into the meat of this article.
Over the previous weekend, Stardock, the developer of Sins of a Solar Empire, had a nice sale on the game through their Impulse Digital Download service, for only $3.99 plus tax. Since I passed on this back when it released back in 2008 and having more than a passing interest in the real time strategy genre, I decided to buy it. The way I figured, if I played it once and never played it again, I only wasted 4 bucks. Thankfully though, I have been enjoying my time with the game thus far.
I know a couple of people with the game (GameSpot buddies SkittlesMcGee and Lafigueroa, among others) so I immediately jumped into a couple of multiplayer games with the two of them after spending a couple of minutes with the tutorial to learn the most basic of commands so I wouldn’t be totally Sins illiterate when I logged into the game and started expanding my galactic empire.
Oh, and when I say “empire”, I mean it.
The scale of multiplayer (and single player for that matter) matches in this game can be positively massive, spanning literally dozens of planets, even topping out over 100. I haven’t played any of these 100+ planet matches yet and even knowing they exist is daunting. Even as impatient of a gamer as I am, I feel strangely tempted to get together with a few friends and start one of these matches, just to see how many long it would span before a victor was declared. The couple of multiplayer matches I played with friends were over 3 hours long each and we were playing on relatively small maps, all things considered, so I can only imagine how many days a match with 100+ planets would last. With that many planets out there, just waiting to be conquered and colonized, it’s highly likely that we could be playing for hours expanding our respective galactic empires and never even see one another until hours later, when our empires started to overlap.
But I’m digressing. Sins of a Solar Empire is a very fun RTS. In my first game, my buddy SkittlesMcGee and I played a 2 v 2 game against the AI. Since this was my first time playing the game and I still needed my hand held throughout most of it, it came as no surprise to me when I was wiped out 1 and a half hours into the match. I had a very small fleet and a measly two planets to call my own when I tried to take over an AI controlled planet that was neighboring my home planet and was woefully under defended. So, I sent in my fleet, decimated the puny fleet that stood guard over the planet and proceeded to bomb it from orbit.
Apparently, my enemies didn’t like that too much.
As I was nearing the end of my aerial bombardment, all of a sudden, backup arrived and I proceeded to crap my pants. Seriously, an entire fleet arrived to combat my occupying force, which was almost obliterated, save for a few lucky ships that managed to limp back to my home world. As I struggled to re-group, the enemy quickly advanced on the only other world I’d managed to colonize, which was woefully underprepared for the impending onslaught. As that planet fell and I struggled to reinforce my home planet, it was invaded. My end was not swift or painless. Clearly, the AI wanted to make sure I never attempted to take one of its planets ever again, lest I be horribly destroyed like I was then. The match ended with a positively epic last stand between the two AIs and SkittlesMcGee. There were literally hundreds of ships in the battle at its peak and Skittles sure didn’t go down easy (like I did).
In the second match I played, my buddy Lafigueroa joined Skittles and I in a free for all match. Because I was still new, the two of them decided to take it easy on me as I struggled to build my empire without infringing upon the delicate peace treaties we had going between each other. Of course, the peace between the two veterans only lasted so long and was shattered about halfway into the match when Skittles took control of one of Lafigueroa’s home planets and sparked a war between them.
This, of course, eventually resulted in Lafigueroa turning on me as well and attempting to take one of my planets. Surprisingly, I was able to hold my own and defend my planet until backup in the form of Skittles’ massive fleet arrived. Eventually, Lafigueroa was exiled to the second and much smaller neighboring star system before Skittles decided that it would be prudent to wipe him out completely. After Lafigueroa’s empire fell at Skittles’ hand, it was very late and we decided to end the match there.
During those matches, I managed to get a decent understanding of the controls, the deep but still somewhat simple fleet management system and the various intricacies of the game. SOASE is a game that’s simple to learn if you’re willing to devote the necessary time to it but is suitably very difficult to master. This isn’t necessarily a very fast paced game but you have to formulate and execute your strategy fairly quickly to avoid falling behind your enemies in the development of your empire. If you don’t adapt quickly, you will be wiped out.
All in all, I definitely enjoyed my time with SOASE and it’s a game that I can definitely see myself playing at length in the near future. Perhaps after I’ve delved into the single player campaign and learned a bit more about the game, I’ll start up one of those 100+ planet games against a single AI opponent and see how I fare. For $4, this was an exceptional value and while it’s no longer on sale for that amazing price, Sins of a Solar Empire seems like it’s worth the current $20 asking price on Impulse.